LONDON, England (AFP) – Gareth Bale's on-going transfer saga continues to cast a dark shadow over Tottenham as they prepare to kick off their Premier League campaign at Crystal Palace on Sunday.
Spurs boss Andre Villas-Boas has become restless at answering questions over the Welsh winger's mooted world-record move to Real Madrid as he looks to get the north London side off to a winning start against newly-promoted Palace.
A foot injury is set to rule Bale out of this week's fixture, but even in his absence the transfer rumblings threaten to prove a significant distraction until the transfer window shuts.
Despite the difficult circumstances, Spurs skipper Michael Dawson is determined to concentrate on making a solid start to the season and securing his club's first opening-day victory in four years.
"We didn't get off to a flyer last season like we wanted to," Dawson said.
"We showed strength, commitment and spirit to fight back, but if we had started better then who knows where it would have taken us?
"Hopefully this year we can get off to a flyer and it will be the start of a great year that has more ups than downs."
Tottenham chairman Daniel Levy might have spent most of the close-season speaking to Real officials about Bale, but he has also found time to bring in Roberto Soldado, Paulinho, Nacer Chadli and Etienne Capoue at a cost of close to ??60 million ($94 million, 70 million euros).
Spanish striker Soldado, who has netted 20 times in each of his last three seasons at Valencia, has already impressed Dawson with his quality.
"He can send you here, there and everywhere with his touches and movement. I've seen it in training," Dawson said.
"He is a top signing and he is someone that I am sure the fans will come to adore.
"Nacer and Paulinho have signed too. It's important to bring new players in to freshen things up.
"I don't think you can ever stand still. Everyone is hungry to do well. It will improve us as a squad."
Villas-Boas's new recruits will be licking their lips at the prospect of playing a Palace side who have already been named relegation candidates without kicking a ball.
But Dawson is adamant Ian Holloway's side will not be push-overs at Selhurst Park.
"It will be a battle," the 29-year-old added.
Holloway's sides have always played exciting football and the Championship play-off winners are relishing the task of competing against Spurs.
"The Championship is worlds apart from what we will have to face for at least one season," former Blackpool boss Holloway said.
"Our job is to rise to that challenge and step up. We're not that counter-attacking team any more as we've lost Wilfried Zaha and Glenn Murray (knee injury).
"We're trying to catch up to some fantastic teams in new levels.
"I still haven't got my full squad, but I can't ask for any more as we're doing things as quick as we can.
"If we have to baton down the hatches until I have them until late on deadline day, then so be it.
"I have to take on Andre Villas-Boas who has a player (Bale) who could be worth ??100 million. I just have to do what I have to do."
Holloway could hand debuts to former Arsenal striker Marouane Chamakh and Dwight Gayle, the ??6 million signing from Peterborough, but Jerome Thomas is out with an ankle injury.